Many times in fantasy we romanticize the thief as the suave, fast-talking, cut-purse, but in a real psychological sense there is a very fine, gray line between the cut-purse and the cut-throat. They are quite often the same person. Within the archetype of the thief lies one of the few instances where I wish writers were grittier–more realistic with the character’s motivations.
I’ve heard the argument more than once that the fantasy worlds where sexual assault goes unpunished are just grittier than our own. It is war-time. People are living under constant threat. This is how it was in Earth’s dark history, too. While I do not argue with any of that, I would like to argue with the character development of these sexual predators. I’m not here to say we need to stop having sexual assault in fantasy. If it fits the story, write it, my brother! What I am saying is that we need to be mindful to how we treat our characters, specifically our sexual offenders in fantasy. We need to be mindful that we are being realistic, and setting the right character progressions for a person who is a sexual offender in fiction. What I’m calling into criticism is how I’ve seen some authors develop character arcs involving these characters.
I mean, in general, almost nothing bothers me in fiction, so long as the story demands it. I’m not sure if the story called for this scene, 100%, or not. I haven’t read his full novel, just that snippet. But, when it comes to issues of sexual aggression toward women, does it matter if the story calls for it? Are we, as fantasy readers, tired of this story? Should this story still be being written?
This wasn’t a story of some muscle-headed, diesel-guzzler, saving beautiful women in high octane action sequences. It was instead a cleverly veiled tale of a reluctant hero, roped into helping a disenfranchised party of capable warriors, journey-ho to reclaim their home from a sadistic, water-hording, overlord .